10 Best Intranets of 2008

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/01/10

Had coffee with Drupal aficionado Gregory Heller over at Top Pot in downtown Seattle on Tuesday and he pointed me to Jakob Neilson’s new article on the 10 Best Intranets of 2008.

Design seemed to figure directly into business results. Here’s a short money quote —

The productivity gains from polishing the user experience are well worth the cost of going beyond the first design that comes to mind.



Marching toward release of an open learning system…

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/09/05

I’ve been marching busily during recent months toward release of a 200+ lesson web based training system for the new phase of a clinical information system at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Hope to release details soon on the site so those of you in the elearning space can take a look.

The architecture of the thing should be very interesting to those of you who lament with me how learning management systems (LMS’s) too often function as walled gardens — and cut off discoverability and content re-use as a result.

Stay tuned for the hard launch.



Whitespace: 34% More Retention in Half the Time

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/03/14

Cool article this AM from the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review. It’s a review of an eyetracking research study called “Eyetracking points the way to effective news article design“.

Best quote —

“What if you could engage users in a story for about half the time, yet have them remember about 34 percent more of the content?”

Visit the article for cool screenshots of the noted before and after design. Main takeaways are that retention increased with a redesign that emphasized —

  • Increased white space
  • Concise main idea
  • Removal of unnecessary images
  • Shortened lines of text
  • An added graphic for each restaurant ranking


Udell on ‘Video Knowledge’ and my riff on the death of the specialist

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/12/20

Father of screencasting, Jon Udell has great post on the move toward video as a knowledge/rapid-documentation repository. After a few technical points, he hits this gem that completely jives with my experience on getting into the flow of screencasting —

…you have to overcome the same natural reticence that makes dictation such an awkward process for those of us who haven’t formerly incorporated it into our work style. You also have to overcome the notion, which we unconsciously absorb from our entertainment-oriented culture, that video is a form of entertainment. It can be. Depending on the producer, a screencast documenting a disaster recovery scenario could be side-splittingly funny. And if the humor didn’t compromise the message, a funny version would be much more effective than a dry recitation. But even a dry recitation is way, way better than what’s typically available: nothing.

Just another step toward the seamlessness of media where real headway means that this will be less and less of a specialist skill — who is a ‘word processing’ specialist these days?

No one — every one.

There is a point in the future (near? mid? far?) Jon alludes to here where things like screencasting will be a natural repository for business/education/whatever knowledge — a time when this stuff will not be a specialized skillset.


Last night with the wife and kids, I brought YouTube up on the family TV and searched for my wife’s username and my daughter’s name. We all sat mesmerized for 30 minutes while we played the various clips Jen has uploaded over the past 6-8 months.

It’s content that I, as a professional multimedia producer, had little to do with — All video my wife produced on her own through mostly self developed knowledge and a digital camera (not a miniDV camcorder).

What does TV look like to my daughter and my wife? Something much less specialized than I could ever imagine — and I’ve got a good imagination.

On with the flattening of the universe…



Blog or Project Log: Selling disruptive tools on the inside

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/24

Jay Cross has a great post this AM about the need to find compelling language that can drive experimentation and adoption of blog, podcast, and wiki types of tools inside of organizations ––

It’s time for us to come up with a vocabulary that’s not an obstacle to installing learning technology. Take the word blog. For some people, the word sets off alarm bells. They envision amateurs, threatening hackers, neo-nazis, the Drudge Report, people obsessed with kittens, semi-literates, unverifiable nonsense, spammers, porno freaks, political extremists, teen age confessionals, MySpace flirts, people who are out of control and lawsuits waiting to happen.

It’s enough to give disruptive technology a bad name.

So let’s not speak of blogs or slimeheads. Let’s talk about Project Logs. Or Collaborative Project Documentation. Or Knowledge Logs. Or professional journals.

<bagoftricks>Project log –– hmm, that could work.</bagoftricks>

 



Teens self organize a learning experience in Second Life

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/09

Just heard about via the Second Life Education Mailing List –– teens have self organized a learning experience on creating awareness about Child Sex Trafficking. Happened in an area of second life called the Teen Grid.

Looks like they created a maze that users would move through, digest facts, answer questions in exchange for Second Life stuff, and were given the opportunity to donate Second Life dollars at the end.

Pretty inventive and striking in it’s informality and self organization.

Here’s some details from the Global Kids blog entry.

On the effectiveness of the design ––

The thing I found interesting about this was how, by trying to address teenagers from a route which many are more comfortable in, and spend quite a bit of time in, they’re also managing to educate them, quite willingly in most places. As I went round the maze I saw many people stopping at each of the case studies and fact cards and reading them.

On the self organizing nature of it ––

Also evident throughout second life are members educating themselves or each other. For example, a lot of items are created by the members, who have had to learn how to build them, then learn programming for more interactive elements. Many of the kids on Teen grid didn’t know how to programme when they first arrived, however, through tutorials and people willing to help each other, they have learnt enough to complete items they are building, or have learnt where to go to find out more so they can continue to educate themselves.

On the inventiveness of their methodology ––

Raising money was also another part of the event that seemed to be working quite well. It can often be hard to get teenagers to donate money, however, within the virtual world they were a lot more willing. The one donation box had raised about L$6500 within a few hours, which is about $22. Although it does not seem that much, If the same people had passed a donation box in the street for the same cause, would so much have been donated?

 



Article: ‘e-learning 2.0 – How Web technologies are shaping education’

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/09

Great article this AM from the folks over at Read/Write Web on emerging Web 2.0 (yeah, I know, but we gotta call it something) trends in eLearning.

Article is titled ‘e-learning 2.0 – how Web technologies are shaping education’. Here’s an excerpt –– 

The traditional approach to e-learning has been to employ the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), software that is often cumbersome and expensive – and which tends to be structured around courses, timetables, and testing. That is an approach that is too often driven by the needs of the institution rather than the individual learner.

In contrast, e-learning 2.0 (as coined by Stephen Downes) takes a ‘small pieces, loosely joined’ approach that combines the use of discrete but complementary tools and web services – such as blogs, wikis, and other social software – to support the creation of ad-hoc learning communities.

This is the heart of what I will be going into detail on in ‘Blogs and Screencasts in the Quest for Training Attention’ for my Cerner Health Conference 2006 presentation in Orlando this October.



Blackboard adopts a ‘Patent the Obvious and Sue’ Revenue Model

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/02

Seems that eLearning vendor Blackboard is the latest tech company to switch to a “patent the obvious and sue” revenue model.

According to this post by Harold Jarche they’ve ––

  1. Been granted a far-reaching patent for “Internet-based education support system and methods”
  2. Already filed a lawsuit against its main competitor Desire2Learn

My understanding at this point is that their patent covers all rudimentary LMS functionality and seems to overlap with a lot of standard content management system (CMS) functionality as well. (Excerpt from the patent is below –– text of full patent is available here).

For instance, seems the patent guarantees a lock on ––

  1. Role based user functionality that defines some users as “administrator”, some as “instructors”, and some as “students”. (Patent claim, point 1)
  2. Grouping content into “courses” (Patent claim, point 1)
  3. Creation and editing of content that can be grouped into courses (Patent claim, point 2)
  4. Role based access to said courses (Patent claim, point 1)

I could go on, but you probably get the gist –– friendster has patented friend relationships reflected in technology –– and now blackboard has patented teacher/student relationships reflected in technology.

Can we take a moment and acknowledge how immoral this kind of corporate action is? Especially at the heart of emerging educational systems?

The thing that kills me is that we have to use up valuable brain cycles to discuss/combat this kind of dumb patent (can you say $$ lost via time spent on dumb stuff?)

Even with prior art (which there is tons of), combating it in legal/political channels is very expensive with no guarantee of “equitableconclusion being reached (depending on what the definition of Tubes is, of course).

So many resources that would be better spent building cool stuff -– not very often that you see this kind of “cost” calculated into these sorts of “revenue models”.

From my perspective, any company that tries to do this “patent the obvious and sue” tactic deserves to be called to account by the blogosphere — we’ve got small voices, but when you add them together they can get pretty loud.

––

From the patent ––

  1. A course-based system for providing to an educational community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising: a) a plurality of user computers, with each user computer being associated with a user of the system and with each user being capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system, each role providing a level of access to a plurality of data files associated with a particular course and a level of control over the data files associated with the course with the multiple predetermined user roles comprising at least two user’s predetermined roles selected from the group consisting of a student role in one or more course associated with a student user, an instructor role in one or more courses associated with an instructor user and an administrator role associated with an administrator user, and b) a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network, the server computer comprising: means for storing a plurality of data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to and control of each data file based on a user of the system’s predetermined role in a course; means for determining whether access to a data file associated with the course is authorized; means for allowing access to and control of the data file associated with the course if authorization is granted based on the access level of the user of the system.


Intro to GTD

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/07/24

My GTD Meetup posts have prompted a few folks to ask me what GTD is all about. Thought I would post a link to ‘Getting started with “Getting Things Done”’ –– great GTD summary by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders (a great personal productivity blog).

Here’s an excerpt ––

Stuff is bouncing around in our heads and causing untold stress and anxiety. Evaluation meetings, bar mitzvahs, empty rolls of toilet paper, broken lawn mowers, college applications, your big gut, tooth decay, dirty underwear and imminent jury duty all compete for prime attention in our poor, addled brains. Stuff has no “home” and, consequently, no place to go, so it just keeps rattling around.

Worst off, we’re too neurotic to stop thinking about it, and we certainly don’t have time to actually do everything in one day. Jeez Louise, what the hell am I, Superman?

So you sprint from fire to fire, praying you haven’t forgotten anything, sapped of anything like creativity or even the basic human flexibility to adapt your own schedule to the needs of your friends, your family or yourself. Your “stuff” has taken over your brain like a virus now, dragging down every process it touches and rendering you spent and virtually useless. Sound familiar?



University of Calgary chooses Drupal as CMS

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/06/12

The University of Calgary chose Drupal last week as their CMS. Details are on D’Arcy Norman’s blog.

One reason?? —

The longer term goal is to take advantage of some of the more social/community-oriented features, and open it up to individuals on campus.

I think we’re going to continue to see decisions like this as folks from all sorts of enterprise organizations realize the economic and productivity benefits that social and community features bring.



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